We explored the affordances of using visuo-haptic simulations to improve conceptual understanding and representational competence of the concept of friction. Visuo-haptic simulations are computer-based simulations that encode mathematical and physical models of certain phenomena and provide visual and tactile feedback. Users can see the simulation and feel the friction with their hand by using a special device connected to a computer. We hypothesized that visual and haptic feedback together can help students to improve learning of friction. We recruited 24 engineering technology students with a previous experience in at least one physics course, and we examined their reasoning and understanding about statics concepts before and after engaging with visuo-haptic simulations. Our instructional approach included four steps: 1) lecture about friction, 2) pretest, 3) laboratory session, and 4) posttest. The laboratory session consisted of a pre-training session, guided learning materials based on a constructivist framework, and use of the friction visuo-haptic simulation. We report students' prior conceptions of statics concepts, ways in which they interacted and reasoned with each of the different pedagogical tools, and compared reasoning processes, explanations and learning gains. Our results suggest that the visuo-haptic simulation helped students refine their explanations and increased the coherence between their verbal explanation and mathematical representation.